Why I Hate Cancel Culture

Since the moment I arrived at Kenyon, I noticed a stark cultural difference between the way people treated one another here and the way I always learned to treat others where I come from. I grew up with a mother who always taught me to empathize and care about other people, regardless of societal perceptions. Part of this was due to the fact that I was raised Catholic, and was always told to love my neighbor as myself and not to judge others. This meant that whenever I encountered people who were struggling, it felt normal and natural to reach out and treat them with kindness. In high school, I found myself continuously gravitating towards groups of people who felt the way I did, and I made a purposeful effort to include others as much as possible. I could sense the positive impact that this made on other students' lives, especially when we arranged acts of kindness like Secret Santa programs and planned random lunch dates that included generally isolated or outcasted students. Being kind to others is vitally important to me, and I expected it to be just as important to others when I moved to college.

However, when I arrived at Kenyon, I noticed a stark trend in the opposite direction. Instead of treating people with kindness, love and inclusion, most people allowed their treatment of others to be dictated by gossip. The national trend of “cancel culture,” which can be defined by the mass ostracization or even attacking of an individual for past “problematic” behavior, has most definitely taken root in Kenyon’s social culture. This is especially pervasive when it comes to incidents regarding hook-ups or break-ups, but it is present in general, interpersonal friend drama and Greek Life dynamics as well. It is very common for a freshman student to make one big mistake, whether that be a fight, a controversial idea, or a bad hook-up, and face those consequences in the form of a bad reputation for their next four years of life on the Hill. Many find this situation extremely hard to bear, and as a result, more than one freshman will transfer for these reasons every year.

I find this to be extremely concerning for a number of reasons. The first being that isolating someone who made a mistake and is struggling will usually only serve to accelerate the problem and fill that “canceled” person with rage and resentment for the community. In short, canceling a “bad” person will only serve to make them worse. Humans are inherently social creatures, and even if you’re introverted you need a certain amount of support and healthy social interaction in order to be fully human. This leads to my second point— cancel culture strips us of our humanity. Empathy, kindness, and compassion are what make us who we are. Humans are special because of how deeply we can feel and care, and by denying ourselves those qualities and choosing instead to exclude and turn away someone who needs help, we are harming ourselves. Third, dehumanizing and demonizing the “canceled” party is socially irresponsible and dangerous, especially in a college setting. In college, we are all essentially learning how to be adults. How can we do that if we cannot make mistakes (especially big mistakes) without being able to learn and grow from them? When mistakes are allowed to sit and fester and worsen, people end up with lots of extra trauma and complications, and issues can spread outwards and into other friend groups.

In short— I encourage everyone to be kind. I have faced “cancellation” for simply showing basic kindness to outcasted individuals on Kenyon’s campus, but I have never regretted any of my actions. Reputation is not everything, especially at a place you will only be living for four years, so you might as well take a stand that will mean something to you in the long-term. Care about others, and do what you think is right— not what gossip demands. Allow others the chance to grow, change, and apologize. I think we all would want the same.

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